Canadian police: 1 suspect in stabbings found dead

WELDON, Saskatchewan (AP) — One of the suspects in the stabbing deaths of 10 people in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan has been found dead and his wounds were not self-inflicted, police said Monday as she was continuing to search for a second suspect.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said Damien Sanderson, 31, was found dead near the stabbing sites and they believe his brother, Myles Sanderson, 30, is injured, on the run and probably in the provincial capital of Regina. It was the first time police had identified the two as brothers.

“His body was found outside in a very grassy area near a house which was being examined. We can confirm that he has visible injuries. These injuries are not believed to be self-examination. inflicted at this point,” said Assistant Commissioner to RCMP Commandant Rhonda Blackmore, adding that they were not yet sure of the exact cause of death.

When asked if Myles Sanderson was responsible for his brother’s death, Blackmore said police are investigating the possibility, but “we can’t say definitively at this time.”

The discovery of the body came on the second day of a massive manhunt for the couple, who are suspected of carrying out a series of stabbings in an indigenous community and a nearby town, which also left 18 injured . It is one of the deadliest attacks in the country’s history.

Authorities said some of the victims were targeted and others appeared to have been randomly selected from James Smith’s Cree Nation and the Saskatchewan town of Weldon. They gave no motive for the crimes, but senior Native leaders suggested that drugs were somehow involved.

James Smith Cree Nation resident Darryl Burns and his brother, Ivor Wayne Burns, said their sister, Gloria Lydia Burns, was a first responder who was killed while trying to answer a call. Burns said her 62-year-old sister was on a crisis response team.

“She phoned a house and she got caught up in the violence,” he said. “She was there to help. She was a heroine. »

He blamed drugs and pointed to the colonization of Indigenous peoples for rampant drug and alcohol use on reservations.

“We had a murder-suicide here three years ago. My granddaughter and her boyfriend. Last year we had a double homicide. This year we have 10 more who have died and all of them due to drugs and alcohol,” said Darryl Burns.

Ivor Wayne Burns also blamed drugs for his sister’s death and said the suspect brothers are not to be hated.

“We have to forgive them boys,” he said. “When you take hard drugs, when you take coke, and when you take heroin and crystal meth and those things, you’re unable to feel. You stab someone and you think it’s funny You stab them again and you laugh.

While authorities believe Myles is in Regina, about 335 kilometers (210 miles) south of where the stabbings took place, they have issued alerts across Canada’s three vast prairie provinces – which also include Manitoba and Alberta – and contacted US border officials.

With one suspect still at large, fear still gripped communities in rural, working-class Saskatchewan surrounded by crime-terrorized farmland. A witness who said he lost family members described seeing people with bloody wounds scattered throughout the native reservation.

“No one in this town will ever sleep again. They are going to be terrified to open their door,” said Ruby Works, who also lost a loved one and lives in Weldon, which has around 200 residents and is home to many. retirees.

As Labor Day weekend drew to a close on Monday, police urged Saskatchewan residents returning from trips to check for suspicious activity around their homes before entering.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the pair of suspects and both men face at least one count each of murder and attempted murder. Further charges were expected.

Police gave few details about the men. Last May, Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers released a wanted list that included Myles Sanderson, writing that he was “illegally at large.”

As the manhunt continued, police also issued a province-wide alert for suspects in a shooting at Witchekan Lake First Nation. Officials said the shooting was not believed to be related to the stabbings, but such alerts are unusual and the fact that a second came as authorities were already scouring Saskatchewan for the stabbing suspects was remarkable.

The stabbing was one of the deadliest massacres in Canada, where such crimes are less common than in the United States. The deadliest gun rampage in Canadian history occurred in 2020, when a man disguised as a policeman shot people in their homes and set fires across the province of Nova Scotia. Scotland, killing 22 people. In 2019, a man used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto.

Lethal mass stabbings are rarer than mass shootings, but have occurred around the world. In 2014, 29 people were slashed and stabbed to death at a train station in the city of Kunming in southwest China. In 2016, a massive knife attack at a facility for the mentally disabled in Sagamihara, Japan, left 19 people dead. A year later, three men kill eight people in a vehicle and attack with a knife at London Bridge.

Saskatchewan police received their first call about a stabbing at 5:40 a.m. Sunday and, within minutes, heard of several more. In total, dead or injured people were found at 13 different locations on the sparsely populated reservation and in the city, Blackmore said. The James Smith Cree Nation is approximately 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Weldon.

On Monday, Blackmore said police were still determining the motive, but on Sunday the leader of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations echoed suggestions that the stabbings could be drug-related.

“This is the destruction we face when harmful illegal drugs invade our communities, and we call on all authorities to follow the direction of Chiefs and Councils and their members to create safer and healthier communities for our people,” said Chief Bobby Cameron.

Blackmore said Myles Sanderson’s criminal record goes back years and includes violence.

Elected leaders from the three communities that make up the James Smith Cree Nation have declared a local state of emergency.

Chakastaypasin chief Calvin Sanderson – who is apparently not related to the suspects – said everyone was affected by the tragic events.

“They were our parents, our friends,” Sanderson said of the victims. “It’s pretty awful.”

Among the 10 killed was Lana Head, who is the former girlfriend of Michael Brett Burns and the mother of their two daughters.

“It’s crazy how prison, drugs and alcohol can destroy many lives,” Burns told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. “I’m hurt for all this loss.”

Burns then posted on Facebook that there were dead and injured all over the reservation, making it look like “a war zone”.

“The look in their eyes could not express the pain and suffering of all who were assaulted,” he posted.

Weldon residents identified one of the dead as Wes Petterson, a retired widower who made coffee every morning at the senior citizens’ centre. He enjoyed gardening, picking berries, canning and making jam and cakes, remember William Works, 47, and his mother, Sharon Works, 64.

“He would give you the shirt off his back if he could,” said William Works, describing his neighbor as a “nice old man” and “community first.”

Sharon Works was baffled: “I don’t understand why they would target someone like him anyway, because he was just a poor helpless little man, 100 pounds drenched. And he could barely breathe because he had asthma and emphysema and everyone cared about him because he was like that. He cared about everyone. And they cared about him.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the flag above the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa would be flown at half-mast to honor the victims.

“Saskatchewan and Canadians will do what we always do in times of hardship and anguish, we will be there for each other,” Trudeau said.


Gillies reported from Toronto.

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